1119 (21st December)
Thomas Becket was born the son of a Norman knight Gilbert Becket and his wife Matilda in Cheapside, London.
Thomas Becket began his education at Merton Priory.
Thomas Becket attended a London Grammar school.
Thomas Becket spent the year in Paris.
Becket began working as a clerk, firstly for Osbert Huitdeniers, a family friend, and later for Archbishop of Canterbury
Theobald of Bec.
Theobald of Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury, appointed Becket Archdeacon of Canterbury.
1154 (25th October)
King Stephen died and Becket’s friend Henry became King Henry II
Henry appointed his close friend, Thomas Becket, Chancellor of England
Henry accused the clergy of being too lenient in the punishment of wrongdoers within their own ranks. He also ordered that appeals to Rome, which had been allowed by Stephen
, were to cease.
1162 (23rd May)
Henry appointed his Chancellor, Thomas Becket, to the post of Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry hoped that his friend Becket would help him to reduce the power of the church.
1162 (3rd June)
Thomas Becket was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester.
Council at Woodstock
Henry and Becket disagreed over payments to sherrifs.
Council of Westminster
As part of his desire to reform the church Henry demanded that clerics who had committed crimes should be unfrocked and handed over to the lay courts for punishment. Becket strongly opposed this move.
1164 (30th January)
Constitution of Clarendon
This was a clear statement of the King’s customary rights over the church. The document was comprised of sixteen articles that laid out the degree to which the pope had authority and also the customary rights enjoyed by the King over the church. The document required that the bishops promise to observe these customs in good faith.
1164 (after January)
Becket and the bishops refused to approve the Constitution of Clarendon and turned against Henry vigorously defending their ecclesiastical rights. The struggle between Henry and Becket was worsening.
1164 (6th October)
Council of Northampton
This council found Becket guilty of perjury for failing to attend the council. As punishment it was decided he should lose his possessions.
1164 (2nd November)
Becket exiled himself to France. Henry confiscated Becket’s property.
1166 (2nd January)
Assize of Clarendon
This introduced measures for the trial by royal judges of those suspected of serious crimes. Royal judges were men who the king trusted – earls, barons abbots and counsellors.
1169 (6th January)
Henry and Becket met at Montmirail in France and Becket paid homage to Henry. Henry agreed that Becket should return to England.
1170 (14th June)
Concern about the succession prompted Henry to crown his eldest son and heir Henry. The ceremony took place at Westminster Abbey and the ceremony was performed by the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Salisbury. As coronations were traditionally carried out by the Archbishop of Canterbury this was seen as an insult to Becket.
1170 (22nd July)
Henry and Becket met at Freteval and greeted each other cordially.
1170 (1st December)
Becket returned to England determined to punish all those who had played a part in the young king’s coronation. He brought with him an authorisation from the Pope for the excommunication of all bishops who had supported Henry during Becket’s exile and all barons who had profited from his exile.
1170 (after 1st December)
Henry was in Normandy when he was brought the news that Becket was threatening to excommunicate him for trying to reduce the power of the church. Henry was furious and amid his frustrated rant he may have shouted “will no-one rid me of this turbulent priest!” or words to that effect.
1170 (29th December)
Murder of Thomas Becket
Henry’s heated words were taken literally by four of his knights, Reginald Fitzurse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy and Richard le Breton. Anxious to win the kings favour they rode to Canterbury and murdered Becket in his own cathedral.
Becket was canonised by Pope Alexander III. Canterbury Cathedral became a focus for pilgrimage.